Praying like Paul

praying like paul image “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in Him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

1 Corinthians v 4 – 9

I have been challenged, this week, when I’ve been reading and studying First Corinthians.  Paul writes this letter to a messy and broken church. It’s filled with obvious sin that’s being committed by obviously sinful people. As I thought about it, I was shocked. Paul is not only making time for these people; he starts his letter by encouraging them, praying for them, even giving thanks for them! But, verse four is clear.  This is only possible because of what Jesus has done for them.

The more I thought about this, the more I realised that we are still sinful people, struggling with all kinds of sin, today. We might not struggle with the same sins as people in Corinth – which makes it easy for us to judge them – but we can’t escape from considering our own sin. What’s amazing is that we, even though we’re not worthy of it, we are still God’s people because of His incredible grace to us in Jesus. Our own churches may look messy and broken, we might see obvious sin and obviously sinful people, but they are still full of God’s grace and love.

As we think about school friends, family, and our GB friends, we should pray for them in the same way that Paul prays in verse five: that their lives would be enriched by the love of Jesus, shown on the cross, and that all of our speech and knowledge would reflect this amazing love.

We might look around and think that people or things in our churches or GB companies need to change, but verses six and seven remind us that our churches are not lacking in any gift. God gives us everything we need to serve Him. In fact, we’re not even serving Him by our own strength. We’re serving Him with His strength as we are sustained by Him (v8).

So, as I reflect on God’s church and His people, I am reminded of His goodness and faithfulness to us. I am reminded of His love for us even when we or our churches or our GB companies or our Youth Groups seem so harmed by sin. In fact, we are told in verse nine that God is faithful. He has called us to be His followers and to have fellowship with Him.

With all this in mind, let’s be challenged when we’re looking at our fellow Christians: don’t judge, don’t get disheartened, but remember God’s goodness – goodness that was shown to the people in Corinth – is still being shown to them today. Let’s reflect on His faithfulness, goodness and love. Let’s push ourselves to pray for other Christians, to encourage them with God’s love for them in Jesus because that’s how Paul has encouraged the struggling Corinthians.

 

Laura Kelso, GBNI Admin Officer

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What are you waiting for?

925333e455f7fe6f9322cd0174ba6374As we approach the last few weeks of our Scripture course, what is it that you as a GB leader hoped to achieve with your girls? Is it just to reach the end of the course and be content in the fact that they completed the journals?  Or have you been driven to learn more about the Gospel and how you presented it to your girls to encourage them to have a complete relationship with Jesus?

A couple of weeks ago whilst talking with my Brigaders, we started going through the 9th lesson of our Believe course, where we heard about the true sacrifice that Jesus gave for us all. As we approached the end of the lesson I asked the question “What is it that you are waiting for, why are you holding back from knowing Jesus?” In that moment I thought about a dear family member that we lost just a few weeks prior to an eight month battle with cancer.  She was a wonderful, loving lady filled with a zest for life and a willingness to help and show kindness to everyone she met.  She showed such bravery in her fight against cancer and she is sorely missed by all those who love her.  Up until a week before her passing, she never gave an indication to her loved ones that she knew Jesus personally.  In the finally days of her life she recited the Lord’s Prayer and told her family that God was in her heart.  A moment of sheer joy and hope for the family and they now have the assurance that she will be in glory. She passed away two weeks before her 86th birthday.

86 years is a long time to live without having the joy of Jesus in your life. Unfortunately none of us know when our final day will come, it could be today, next month or in 5 years time.  Certainly we all won’t be blessed enough to be on this earth for 86 years.  But here is the thing, God doesn’t want us to waste a second away from Him.  Are we really prepared to risk our eternity, by holding back because we think we can deal with it later?

I can’t help but think about the life our girls could live if they were walking completely with Jesus today, to be equipped daily in God’s word; and how it would differ from a life without Him. Of course, they will still be faced with many seasons, some glorious and some turbulent but by putting Jesus at the helm, they are trusting Him to have full control of their lives.

As GB leaders, we commit ourselves to serve Jesus by sharing the Gospel and teaching our girls to seek Him. If we hold back in our outreach, we are preventing our girls from having that personal relationship with Jesus.  If we want our girls to be followers, then we have to be brave and honest enough to share the Gospel and highlight the importance of knowing Jesus.  Our mission is simple, so let’s be warriors for Jesus and dig deep into the final weeks of the Scripture course and any devotions you may share.

Pray vigilantly for our girls to engage with the truth of the Gospel and to seek Jesus in every aspect of their lives.

Leeanne Railton Officer 282nd NI Woodlands Presbyterian

 

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Whose party is it anyway?

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The day I was asked to write this column, the supermarkets had already all the boxes of sweets in stock for Christmas. When I see boxes of Celebrations I am reminded of:

What do we celebrate at Christmas?

December is coming with all the joys of Christmas. What is the real meaning of Christmas? Is it the gifts under the tree, meeting with friends and family having parties?

Christmas is a season of great joy.

It is a time of God showing His great love for us by sending His Son Jesus into the World.

Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of the Christ Child.

I read the following story a few years ago of how many can miss the real meaning of Christmas.

Two ladies were having lunch together when a friend saw them and came over to their table to greet them. The friend asked what the special occasion was. One of the woman said ‘We are having a birthday party for my daughter she is two today’. ‘Where is your daughter?’ the friend asked. The child’s mother answered ‘I left her with her granny. Granny is looking after her until the party is over’.

How ridiculous! a birthday party for a child who was not welcome at her own birthday party. Yet when we stop to think about it, it is no more foolish than going through the Christmas season with all the
parties, gifts, meeting with friends and family without remembering the one whose birth we are to
celebrate.

Every time we see a box of Celebrations or dip into a box of Celebrations let us remember whose birthday we are celebrating.

Margaret Megahey

GBNI Shop Supervisor
Captain, 22nd NI Sloan Street Presbyterian

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All change!

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…’ Ecclesiastes 3

I don’t know about you but I don’t have a favourite season. I love each one for very different reasons.  Summer sunshine with the excitement of holidays and long days with ice cream.  Then equally I look forward to cosy nights indoors wrapped up in woolly jumpers; again probably accompanied by ice cream treats :)

As we move from one season to another, it seems that not only the weather around us is changing, there are new opportunities ahead for some as they head to college or university; new subjects to be studied and at times wrestled with; new jobs and challenges in work; new friendships to be made; new cities to discover; for all of us a new GB session to look forward to and the unknown unexpected surprises we all enjoy!

But as we rush into the new season and all this brings, slow down and take time out to consider the one constant who remains ever present and unchanging.

God. 

His love for us, His everlasting acceptance and security remain unchanged.

It can be difficult to imagine sometimes things being different and coming to an end. Some events like exams ending we look forward to but others can be harder to come to terms with when they finish.  It’s okay to feel sad when something you enjoy ends but remember God has determined all the events of our lives, the happy and sad, the easy and the difficult.

God is in full control.

At a recent GEMS Roadshow when asked what they enjoyed about GB, a young woman said that she liked GB as it was through GB she learnt that God was always there when it seemed no-one else was. I was struck by her words and have been unable to get this sentence out of my head since.

How true!

God is unchanging, unfailing and ever present.  God is in full control.

No matter what we are going through, what season of our life we are in, God is there. He is simply always there.  From the moment we are born, God’s love and care envelopes us, as we grow in Christ we can stand firm and close to Him and His protection.

So as we begin to make plans for the next weeks and months; hold tight to God, know that He will always be with you no matter what lies ahead.

Look forward to the amazing next steps in your journey safe in the knowledge that you do not need to worry.

God has it all under control.autumn-leaf-with-verse

Blessings

Emma

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Building another generation of Esthers

She risked her life for her people….She prevented genocide!

This isn’t the tag line for a blockbuster movie but in fact it’s exactly what Esther did in the Bible.

Did you know that Esther is mentioned more times in the Bible than any other woman? Or that the Old
Testament book bearing her name doesn’t even mention God once? Esther is a remarkable woman, who did
remarkable things, and for us at Girls’ Brigade there is so much we can learn from her story.

A little bit of background….
Esther was a Jew from the tribe of Benjamin who grew up as an exile in Persia. Esther was her Persian name – her Jewish name was Hadassah. Her story takes place during the reign of King Xerxes and her Uncle Mordecai served for him in the palace. Esther was beautiful and after the Queen did not show for a public appearance the King selected Esther to be his new Queen. Mordecai warned her not to reveal she was a Jew, as Jews were held in suspicion. One of the King’s advisors Haman, decided that because of his rise to power everyone must bow to him. Mordecai refused and he appealed to the King to decree that all Jews must be killed.

This is where Queen Esther comes into the picture. Mordecai calls on her to intercede to the King but the only problem is that the King doesn’t know she is a Jew. Although God is never mentioned in the book we can see his hand and his presence woven all through the book. When Esther is reluctant Mordecai tells her:

‘If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?’  Esther 4:14.

Esther image

Esther does eventually appeal to the King, we all know the story and we all know she saved the Jews.

But what can we learn from Esther?

1. Your background does not affect your future with God
Esther was an orphan and God still exalted her and still used her. We see examples of ordinary people with an extraordinary God the whole way through the Bible. Look at the disciples – fishermen, tax collectors… You may sometimes feel like you aren’t good enough to lead in GB, or that because of your background there is no way you have anything to teach the girls. Just remember your background does not determine what God can do with you, your faith does!

2. We need the favour of God
Esther found favour with the King as did Mordecai. When we live a life pleasing to God, by obeying His will, we will find favour with Him. As we lead our girls week by week and help them to live in God’s will and find favour in Him we must remember to pray for guidance as we walk in His will.

3. God works in His own timing
Esther had her timing right; she was placed in her situation for such a time as that. To use her gifts and
abilities to speak into that situation to save those people. We need to learn patience and wait on God’s
perfect timing. But you need to remember that God has placed you in your section within your GB company for this specific time, it is His will that you speak into the lives of the girls you will have this year. Only you and your gifts can speak into the girls in the way he needs you to this year. He equips and sends you!

As we go along to our company each week can I encourage you to pray that you become more like Esther as you walk through the year? She was a woman of principle who was an outstanding example of serving others in difficult times, even willing to put the lives of others ahead of her own – and as we serve our girls let’s build up another generation of Esthers willing to walk with God no matter what their situation.

Vicky Flanagan
92nd NI Hillsborough GB
Love for Life

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Be the best version of you

Be the best version of youIt’s that time of the year again, when GB is finishing up and life starts to feel a little bit more normal after the madness of display time!

Girls’ Brigade is such an amazing organisation allowing us, as girls, to come together to ‘Seek, Serve and Follow Christ’. Recently I have enjoyed learning more about Ruth. I have found a few things about her that I feel we could put into practice in being Women of God. We may think that God is only watching the really important people of the world, or the people we think have the strongest faith, however the story of Ruth tells us that God is not impressed with our fame, our wealth or even our power. What God really is impressed with is the Quality of our Character!

1. Be confident with who you are!

Ruth never let any gossip or rumours affect her or her relationship with God and others. She always got what she needed because she ignored the whispers of others. She didn’t fit in but she accepted that as she didn’t worry what society thought. She had more important things to think about than what people thought of her.

This is such a lesson, God has created us each individually we are not and never will be perfect.
However, God has given us challenges that others will not understand the way in which we face them. It is OK to not be like everyone else! It is OK to not wear the latest high street trends! It is OK to be a Christian even if others in your work place are not! Be confident you are who you are for a reason!

2- Follow the advice of those who are wise!

Ruth knew Naomi was wise and so she listened to her advice and acted on it! This eventually lead to Ruth marrying Boaz. Society did not always treat Ruth the way a woman should be treated however, Boaz saw how great of a woman Ruth was due to her strength and determination.

It can be difficult to take advice from others whether they are younger or older than us! I know this is an area I find particularly difficult! However the ‘get up and go’ attitude that Ruth had is one that I would aspire to have. Advice from others no matter how mad it seems at the time, can in fact turn into such a blessing!

3. Be Willing to give up everything you have!

Ruth gave up everything she had, her pagan homeland and the pagan Gods that went with her culture. Ruth dropped everything and chose to become a believer of the true God – Our God! The Lord called Ruth at that time and she gave up everything to follow him!

It can be so difficult to say ‘No’ to those who maybe are not Christians, or to take ourselves away from tempting situations! Ask yourself a question – could you give it all up in the name of God? If you can’t, pray about it, seek help from others and read the book of Ruth!

Finally be strong women of God! Pray during the good times and the bad times and live a life of service – God will reward you!

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” Ruth 1:16

Nicola Watson
Officer 92nd NI Hillsborough Presbyterian
GBNI Executive GEMS and Youth Rep.

For He is faithful, and His timing is perfect.

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Immanuel – ‘God with us’

It was cold and dark when I woke up this morning, so cold I could see my dog’s breath as he came up to me for his good morning pat. Then the 45 minute drive to work began and as always my mind wandered here and there. I weaved my way through traffic, keeping the hot air blasting out at me so the steering wheel wouldn’t seem quite so cold. I arrive at GBNI HQ and it’s still dark, it’s still cold but as another week begins I know that a warm cup of tea awaits me as I take my coat off and turn on my computer.  Then my mind begins to wander again…

Emmanuel – ‘God with us’

Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year but as much as it excites me, it also makes me think. On one hand, the streets are full of Christmas lights, beautiful trees are proudly displayed in front windows and somewhere in the distance there is always the faint hum of Christmas music. All of which I love!  On the other hand though, darkness envelopes most of our daylight hours, it is absolutely freezing and everyone seems so busy that we get in each other’s way in the shops rather than putting one another first… So I look for what is constant, trying to peel back the layers of the season to find what’s at its heart – which inevitably reveals what is in mine.

Emmanuel – ‘God with us’

Two years ago my husband and I got married just a few days before Christmas. A lot was going on as we were preparing for our wedding, attending dress fittings, confirming guest lists while also graduating from Bible College and getting ready to move my life to Cuba, start a new job and learn what it is to be a wife! I’ll never forget how bitter sweet it all was with exciting new beginnings alongside inevitable goodbyes, fresh hopes together with unavoidable fear. There was the same cold, the same lights in the streets, the same Christmas carols, but something very different going on inside me. Maybe you know what I mean?

Emmanuel – ‘God with us’

This year we’re back in Northern Ireland swapping our flip-flops for winter woollies and all the while another layer is peeled back and the full force of ‘Emmanuel’ hits me afresh – God is with us.  No matter what continent we’re on, what the weather is like, what presents may or may not be under the tree, the truth that rings out is Emmanuel. But are we listening?

Emmanuel – ‘God with us’

It all started in the garden where God dwelt alongside Adam and Eve. A few bad choices later they are banished from God’s presence and a long and uncertain journey begins. Nevertheless God promises in Leviticus 26 that He will make His dwelling once more among His people, “I will walk among you and be your God and you shall be my people.” That promise of restored intimacy and God’s presence with His people is repeatedly echoed throughout the Old Testament (see Exodus 33:14, Numbers 14:9, Psalm 46:7, Isaiah 7:14). Then suddenly in Matthew 1:23 we read, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel – which means, “God is with us.” The promise has taken flesh, God has come down, He is not only dwelling among His people but He has become one of them. The walls of the tabernacle become the walls of our hearts. Christmas then leads us to Easter and we exchange Christmas trees and mangers for the cross and Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus’ victory over sin and death reaffirms once again that God is with us. In Revelation 21:3 we read, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold the tabernacle of God is among men and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people and God Himself will be among them.” Whether you are in Havana, Antrim, Belfast or Cullybackey, married, single, studying or working – God Himself is among us.

Emmanuel – ‘God with us’

This Christmas, whether you find yourself on your way to school, driving to work, buying presents or with cold hands in search of a warm coffee, I pray that the truth of Emmanuel will penetrate your thoughts and hearts. As we welcome in a New Year may we be reminded of God’s welcome to us to rest in His presence, to trust Him with our hopes and fears and to remember that the heart of Christmas is found in our hearts everyday – God Himself.

 

“God is in us, God is for us, God is with us, Emmanuel He’s the Saviour we have been praying for In our humble hearts He will dwell God is in us, God is for us, God is with us, Emmanuel”

Amen and Merry Christmas,

Hollie :)

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Fragile? Cherished!

Today is an interesting day for me as it is my last day working for GBNI.  After 8 ½ years I am off to pastures new. I am excited for all that God has in store for me, but it is sad to leave people that I have grown so close to.

As I was thinking about what to write for my last blog, one Bible verse comes to mind. This is the verse that I associate with my time in GB more than any other. It was the key verse behind the Worth Scripture Course a few years ago:

I once heard someone describe Christian youth work for girls as ‘telling ugly girls that they are pretty.’ This is sooooooo NOT what the work of GB is about!!

The amazing privilege that we have in GB is to introduce girls to Christ and to support them as they discover that their worth is not in their own successes, or the world’s opinions, but in the love of God.  It does not matter how rejected we are by the world, we are God’s chosen children.  This is the most important truth that any person can learn as they step into a relationship with Him.

Christianity is not just a set of rules to follow – it is a way of life.  A relationship with a living God who cares for us more than we will ever know.  He is also there for us at all times, but we must learn to turn to Him instead of trying to make do on our own.

As I was clearing out my desk, I found this roll of ‘fragile’ tape.  I had picked it up somewhere a few years ago and kept it in my drawer, because I thought it would be great for a talk or a blog at some stage.  The truth is that I have never used it, because you are not just fragile little birds who need looked after!

Yes, life can hurt you and you can feel broken, but even in your brokenness… you are God’s most treasured child.  You are cherished!! We are not fragile because the Creator of the Universe is on our side…. you just have to make the choice to welcome Jesus into your heart.

Working for GB has never been just a job that I get paid to do.  The work I have been able to do has been straight from the heart, because helping young people find God in this crazy mixed up world is one of the most important things that anyone can do in their lives!  Looking forward, I am excited for GB as Hollie will be taking on my role…(she will introduce herself to you soon)… but I also know that there are many women, both young and old, who share this passion and are open to God’s guidance as they seek to be both relevant and Christ-centred.

Over the years many people have helped me by writing blogs, sharing ideas and listening to me as I put my thoughts in order.  A special thanks goes to Debra who has been my trusty proof reader in the last few years – and that is not always an easy task!!

I have loved my time writing this blog and I pray that some of my random thoughts will have been helpful to you at some stage.  I pray that you will keep on reading and encouraging those who write the blogs by writing in the comments below.

Every blessing!

Sarah :)

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Moving mountains!

Have you ever read this verse from Matthew 17:20:  ‘Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.’

I was recently privileged enough to visit a massive National Park in California called Yosemite.  As we were driving along a road through a series of humongous mountains, this verse became very real to me.  Even in the picture below you will not get the enormity of these natural skyscrapers made of sheer rock.

This verse is actually part of a conversation that Jesus is having with His Disciples. They have tried to heal a young man, but had failed, so Jesus had to cast out the demon.  Afterwards the Disciples are asking why it didn’t work and Jesus replied ‘Because you have so little faith’.

I don’t know about you, but if I was one of those Disciples I think I would have felt pretty gutted at that point.  You are literally walking and living with Jesus.  You have witnessed Him perform miracles and healings that would blow your mind.  He has instructed you how to do this and when it comes to it… you fail.

I don’t believe that Jesus ever meant the Disciples to feel like failures, in the same way as He never wants us to feel that way.  Instead He is pointing out that our human minds will never fully grasp the immense power of God.

Some blogs that I have read say that the idea of moving a literal mountain is only a metaphor…. but you know what… I believe in an almighty God who created the world and can therefore do anything.  Moving a mountain is nothing compared to creating the universe.  The scary thing is that God also puts that power into our hands, when we have faith in Him.

In principle this sounds good, but in reality it is hard to truly accept this.  Sometimes we can get caught up in the small things in life and believe the lies of the devil, who does not want us to believe that we have this power in Jesus’ name.

This week, why don’t you take some time and think/pray through some of these ideas with God.  What are you missing out on because you don’t have faith?  How are you limiting God?

Below is a video of a song from Bethel Music called ‘It Is Well.’  You might want to use this to inspire your time of prayer.

Sarah :)

 

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People, people everywhere!

I am just back from holiday and to get there, we had to go through Heathrow Airport… Did you know that Heathrow was the third busiest airport in the world in 2012 (http://edition.cnn.com/2014/09/17/travel/worlds-busiest-airport-final-2013/). An estimated 72.4 million passengers travel through it every year.

I love airports. I love looking in all the fancy shops; love trying on about 20 perfumes and love the excitement of going on an adventure, but mostly I love people watching.

Have you ever just sat somewhere and watched all the people go past and tried to guess where they were going? Are they going on a business trip or a holiday? Are they looking forward to meeting a loved one, or sad that they have just had to say goodbye? What do they do? What are they listening to on their headphones? Are they really spies in disguise? (I watched James Bond on the plane which explains why I was questioning if everyone was a spy!) Basically, I am just nosey and love watching all the people go past.

The other thing that I love about airports is that they remind me just how big the world is and how many people are in it. It is something that can be easily forgotten in wee Northern Ireland. When I consider how many people there are, I start to think about just how amazing God is!

In Matthew 10:30-33, Jesus teaches us that: ‘…even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in Heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in Heaven.’

I think this is remarkable when I think of just me. The fact that the Creator of the universe loves me so much that he has even numbered the hairs of my head just blows my mind. Now multiply that by all the people that I saw in the airport! It is just incredible; yet the people in the airport were only a small part of the world’s population.

Our God is AMAZING!!

Spend some time considering this and then spend some time in prayer, worshipping God who loves us beyond our own understanding. You might like to use the words of this song from Jesus Culture.

If you have any comments on this blog please use the comments section below,
Sarah :)

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